Right Hon. Paul Martin (LaSalle—Émard, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank the members who have spoken in favour of the Kelowna accord tonight and previously. I would like to thank the members who voted for it.
I would also like to thank the aboriginal leaders, from coast to coast, who spoke publicly in favour of a fundamental improvement in the situation of their fellow citizens.
The Kelowna accord is not simply important because a group of people, the federal government, the prime minister, ministers, provincial and territorial premiers and leaders, and the leaders of Canada's aboriginal people, the Métis nation, the first nations, the Inuit, came together at Kelowna. It is important because at that historic moment the nation came together and said that the lack of decent water, the lack of decent housing and the lack of economic opportunity is not acceptable.
We have heard members of the opposition parties speak here tonight. I would ask members of the government if they think it is acceptable that one million Canadians, the youngest and the fastest growing segment of our population, should at the same time have the highest incidence of infant mortality, the lowest life expectancy, that they should have the highest incidence of AIDS, tuberculosis and diabetes.
Do they think the dropout rate among aboriginals in our country should be double—and almost triple— that of other Canadians?
Kelowna is about saying to the youngest segment of our population that they have the right to the same educational opportunities as other Canadians. It says that in a world in which we must compete with other countries which are showing great productivity and great growth, we believe that every single Canadian counts.
Kelowna is also about the way in which it was arrived at. Members of the current government witnessed it on television with their own eyes. All of the political leaders in this country came together to say that we will no longer impose upon the aboriginal communities of this country our way of looking at things, that we will work with them.
Kelowna is important for its objectives, but it is also important for the way in which it was arrived at, the 16 to 18 months of fundamental discussions in community after community, in province after province, in territory after territory, as to how in fact this great partnership between us as Canadians should work. That is what Kelowna is all about.
For members of the government to stand here and say that that never happened is a denial of a fundamental reality and a historic coming together.
I am very proud of the Kelowna accord and I am very proud of the members of Parliament who have supported it.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Kelowna Accord Implementation Act